Attendance at the sixth Virgin Queen tournament was in the low thirties for the fifth straight year at 31 players. We had five games in the opening heat and four in the second: five of those nine games were five-player games where the Holy Roman Empire was activated as a neutral power. Winners in these games included former champions Kirk Harris and Ed Rothenheber, former finalists Michael Kiefte, Chris Trimmer, Eric Stranger and Justin Rice, and less-laureled players Gerald Johnson, Richard Comfort, and Steve Scarangella. Wins were divided between Spain (3), France (2), Protestant (1), England (1), Holy Roman (1) and Ottoman (1).
Having warmed up in the opening heats on the first day, our nine winners joined nine alternates for the semifinals the next morning. All three games concluded with a different type of victory. In the first contest, Michael Kiefte was able to push England to 25 VP in just three turns. In the second semi, Matthew Hannan succeeded with the second Spanish Gunpowder Plot victory of the year. And the third semifinal table was taken by Jonathan Tarquino, who was able to steer the Protestants to a military victory. Two of the wildcard alternates for the Final came from Michael’s table: Ed Rothenheber (HRE) and Paul Grosser (Ottoman). Brad Merrill was the sixth finalist based on his 24-VP finish as France at Jonathan’s table. Notice that each of the six finalists was playing a different power in their semifinal!
Perhaps noting that things are pretty well balanced, our top seed, Michael Kiefte, started off the power selection for the Final by rolling a six-sided die. The gods of the 16th Century chose Spain for Michael. That roll allowed Jonathan Tarquino to choose his favorite Protestant power, followed by Matthew Hannon (HRE), Ed Rothenheber (England), Paul Grosser (Ottoman) and Brad Merrill (France). Half of the players were reprising their role from the semifinals while the other three had chosen a different power.
Turn-by-turn highlights of the three-turn Final follow.
- France obtains marriages for all three Valois royals (giving up a card to the HRE to secure the second and third marriage deals).
- Ottoman sends fleet to attack Messina and retreats through to the Tyrrhenian Sea. By the end of the impulse three Christian galleys are sunk but the Ottoman also lost a galley and corsair.
- Spain plays Dutch Revolt immediately, gaining a critical 3 VP. That’s enough to make Spain a threat to win by VP throughout the contest.
- The Protestant pays Calvinist Zeal to create a Dutch capital at Amsterdam and place Antwerp in unrest.
- Sir Francis Drake heads for the Pacific and gets five hits (3 for VP) on his first two piracy attempts of the game. He circumnavigates later in the turn.
- Ottoman siege of Cyprus is successful.
- Holy Roman player picks up both Papal and Venetian alliances on a single impulse late in the turn.
- Protestant Spaces at turn end are: 13 in England/Scotland, 8 in Netherlands, 4 in France = 25 total
- Snake eyes haunt the marriage rolls: those are the initial dice for the marriage of both of Catherine de Medici’s sons. Luckily Henry III married Anna of Austria and can reroll a die, but Charlies IX is murdered by his bride Elizabeth of Austria!
- Patronage nets England and the Holy Roman 3 VP each; Spain also scores 2 more VP. Scores are high for the first turn and it looks unlikely that the game will require four turns.
VP: Ottoman 15, Spain 19, England 19, France 15, HRE 15, Protestant 12
- Spain wins back the Papacy and gets to use that win to patronize El Greco.
- Protestant again uses Calvinist Zeal for another rebellion in the Netherlands taking Antwerp this time.
- Ottoman assault captures Malta.
- Drake sails to the Spanish Main this turn and still gets 3 piracy hits right away.
- The Irish rebel and side with the Holy Roman who is now at war with England. However the English have enough force on hand to sail over and wipe out the Catholic presence in Ireland.
- Spain adds 2 more VP picking up the Polish Royal Election just before the end of the turn.
- Protestant Spaces at turn end are: 15 in England/Scotland, 3 in Netherlands, 4 in France = 22 total
- France adds a Patronage VP (Montaigne) while Spain and HRE add two each (El Greco and Brahe).
VP: Ottoman 17, Spain 23, England 20, France 17, HRE 15, Protestant 14
- Four alliances (Ottoman/HRE, Spain/France, England/Protestant and HRE/Protestant) and one marriage are announced.
- Protestant dice go cold early in the turn. An Iconoclastic Fury event results in just a single, minor conversion.
- All players continue to push the religious game hard. This turn the Catholics regain most of the Netherlands but France swings Protestant. Witchcraft to steal a card from the Protestant helped the Spanish gain momentum in this struggle.
- Trying to bring the Spanish back to the pack, our Holy Roman emperor plays Holy League. Venice flips to the HRE, but the Papacy returns to Spain, keeping the Spanish within a point of a win.
- Drake and Cavendish both sail to the Pacific but returns are meager (just 1 piracy hit is achieved). They do continue on to circumnavigate.
- cottish Lords rebel and switch their allegiance to France.
- A desperate Ottoman attempt to build the Suez Canal comes up empty.
- Protestant Spaces at turn end are: 4 in England/Scotland, 1 in Netherlands, 16 in France = 21 total
- The Spanish architect Herrera picks up a patronage VP at the end of the turn to put Spain over the top. Ottoman and HRE also score a patronage VP.
VP: Ottoman 19, Spain 25, England 24, France 18, HRE 16, Protestant 15
And so after two previous finals appearances in Virgin Queen tournaments, Michael Kiefte ascends to the Virgin Queen throne, making the Kieftes the first family of the tournament (his son David won the event four years earlier in 2014).
In the seven years that Virgin Queen has appeared at WBC, we have now played 88 games. Victories by the four powers that appear in every game are as follows:
- Spain: 16 (including five by Gunpowder Plot and three by military victory)
- England: 18 (all by VP)
- France: 13 (all by VP)
- Protestant: 22 (including eight religious and eight military victories)
At least seven of the games were only 4 or 5-player games, but even after not appearing as player-powers in all games the other two sides have scored a number of victories:
- Ottoman: 11 (including three by military victory)
- HRE: 8 (one by military victory)
The game is currently out-of-print but GMT Games does plan to get it back into print in the next few years. Balance between powers has been even enough that we don’t anticipate any changes to the tournament format or the game itself when it is republished. Players just need to remember to keep a focus on the number of non-Dutch keys that the Protestant is accumulating. Keying a watchful eye there forces the Protestant to win by a more traditional route and aids the VP total of France, nicely evening the playing field.
| Ed Beach [1st Year]